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Day 7

April 29, 2007

Gardner Bay at Espanola

After a roller coaster night in rough seas, we awoke in Gardner Bay, off the island of Espanola. Espanola is one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos. Once volcanic, it is now slowly eroding and sinking into the ocean. Being home to thousands of sea birds, it is one of the top Galapagos islands to visit. But the birds will have to wait until this afternoon.

We left boat in the morning and landed on the beach at Gardner Bay. There we many sea lions on the beach, most of whom seemed to be trying to sleep -- it must be too early for them. We walked along the beach taking photos of the sea lions. At the end of the beach we saw a few marine iguanas and mockingbirds, who were not shy at all.

Mocking Birds on the BeachSea Lion on EspanolaSea Lions on the BeachResting Sea LionMichelle and Baby Sea LionSea Lion Wiskers

After walking on the beach, we went snorkeling from the dinghy by Gardner Island. There were some small sea lions and a few fish, and very cold water. Brrrrrrr.

Suarez Point, Espanola

After lunch and siesta time, we landed on a small beach at Suarez Point on the island of Espanola. There were a few sea lions there, including the carcasses of three dead sea lions, in various states of decay. The smell was horrible. I ask our guide about, as it seemed like more than a coincidence. To this point, we have seen a lot of sea lions, some of them in large groups -- yet we saw no dead ones. And yet here, on a very small beach, there were three of them. He replied that it was just coincidence. I don't buy that, however. I am sure that is a logical and likely natural explanation for why there are three dead sea lions at this location, but none to be see elsewhere -- I just don't know what that reason is. In any case, I was eager to move on, given the smell.

As we walked along, we came across many marine iguanas, but these ones are a little different than the ones we have seen so far. They have prominent red patches on their scales.

Waved Albatross Colony

As we continued our walk on the island of Espanola, we then came to the waved albatross colony. Almost the entire world population of the Waved Albatross nests here each on Espanola each year. The large birds spend months and months at sea, but return here to mating and raise their chicks. The waved albatross has the largest wingspan of any bird in the Galapagos Islands, as much as 9 feet across. It is a large bird with a bright yellow beak and distinctive "eyebrows".

Blue Footed Boobies Colony

After the waved albatross colony, we saw a few Nasca Boobies and finally the blue footed booby colony. As the name implies, blue footed boobies have blue feet, though scientists are not sure why. They have a funny looking mating dance in which they take exaggerated steps and do skypointing - it which the beak points to sky while the wings are turned up (see photo). Blue footed boobies are also known for their fishing ability, in which they swoop down from sky and make their bodies as streamlined as possible and dive straight into the water like a bullet, catching fish as much as 3 or 4 feet down. Here they were nesting, some couple had eggs, and other had baby blue footed boobies.

Sky PointingBlue Feet AgainBaby Blue Footed BoobyBlue Foot and ChickBooby and BabyBlue Foot DancingBlue FeetBlue Foot DanceBlue Foot on a Rock

Nasca Boobies and Galapagos Hawks

In additon to the waved albatrosses and blue footed boobies we also saw Nasca Boobies and a couple of Galapagos Hawks. The hawks we sitting on a bush only a few feet away from us, not scared in the least.

And as we came back the beach, more sea lions, including these two sleeping on a rock:

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